The obstetrics unit at Brooklyn Hospital Center, which delivers about 2,600 babies a year, is typically a place of celebration and fulfilled hopes. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, it has been transformed.
Nearly 200 babies have arrived since the beginning of March, according to Dr. Erroll Byer Jr., chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology. Twenty-nine pregnant or delivering women have had suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. They have been kept separate from other patients, and medical workers wear protective clothing when attending to them. Mothers-to-be are confined to their rooms, and visitors are kept to a minimum. Multiple doctors and nurses in the department have fallen ill.
Even healthy pregnant women are anxious. “They don’t feel the happiness and joy that many people experience” at this time of life, Dr. Byer said. Worse, some pregnant patients who become sick are so scared of coming into the hospital — citing fear of the virus or of being alone — that they have delayed doing so. A few of them have become dangerously ill.
Angela Lewis, a maternity nurse who has worked at the hospital for three decades, she had received no specialized training for caring for coronavirus patients. “Years ago, we were taught how to use the P.P.E. and the hand washing and everything. Covid is the same — you have to apply it. You just be a little bit more careful,” she said. “And pray, pray.”
As at other New York hospitals, the surge of new patients with Covid-19 flattened this past week. But nearly 90 patients at the Brooklyn hospital who were confirmed or suspected to have the virus have died since March 1, 30 of them from Monday to Friday last week. Five staff members have also died. The crisis is not over, Dr. Byer and other physicians warned.
Pregnant women are thought to be at a similar risk for severe illness from Covid-19 as other people. But Dr. Byer said that more research was needed, particularly in communities, like Brooklyn, where obesity, diabetes and hypertension are common among expectant mothers.
But he is grateful: So far, not one mother or baby has been lost.